Transforming Systems to Professionalise Farmers and Their Organisations in Africa

Driving system change and the development of a Community of Practice agenda were the most important topics discussed at Global Convening meeting of AMEA in Nairobi. AMEA aims to accelerate farmer organization professonalization, so they provide better service quality. Also there is a need for more accountability and transparency on the services provided.

Transforming Systems to Professionalise Farmers and Their Organisations in Africa

If we do not transform the current system, the drive to commercialise agriculture in developing countries will become more reliant on plantation and contract farming schemes. Farmers will then have limited power to influence the conditions of work or the returns from their labour. The farmers who remain outside of these schemes will remain neglected, as will their farmer organisations.


The AMEA framework approach aims to systematically transform the way in which countries support the professionalization of their farmers and farmer organizations. By doing this, AMEA aims to address the dysfunctional, fragmented, expensive and unsustainable way in which projects currently support farmers and their organizations.Agribusiness Market Ecosystem Alliance

The Agribusiness Market Ecosystem Alliance (AMEA) is a rapidly growing network of NGOs, private sector and development partners. AMEA was set up in 2016 by the Founding Members – ACDI/VOCA, ICCO Cooperation, IDH, IFC, NCBA CLUSA and Rikolto (formerly Vredeseilanden) and SCOPEInsight – and now has 23 members which are reaching millions of farmers through their work across the world.  

The meeting in Nairobi was held to deepen member engagement and share common topics. In May Helene Van der Roest, ICCO’s Regional Manager for Central Eastern and Southern Africa, and Maurice Koppes, STARS Program Manager, participated in this meeting. Good networking took place. Many of the AMEA members have been supporting inclusive agricultural development for over 40 years and bring a wealth of experience


ICCO has a board position in AMEA that was held by JaapJan Verboom. In 2018, Helene Van der Roest took over board membership and she has since been active in growing the network and establishing the local chapter of AMEA in Kenya and linking ICCO and AMEA members where opportunities arise. Apart from leading the Kenya Chapter, ICCO is also a member of the local chapters in Ethiopia and Uganda. 

Benefits of ICCO's membership

ICCO’s membership has a number of benefits. For starters we are part of the local networks and lead the network in Kenya. This provides good visibility and easy connection with many players in the agribusiness and access to finance space. ICCO has good networking opportunities through this network with now 23 members and at country level there is a good overview of what other colleague NGOs are working on and where ICCO can carve out its niece. AMEA also provides a number of tools for free for its members.

AMEA has six member-led work streams including:

  • (i) developing guidelines, and ultimately a standard, on professional farmer organizations;
  • (ii) a toolbox of member-developed training tools and curricula (such as the IFC-developed Agribusiness Leadership Programme – ALP), as well as assessment tools;
  • (iii) growing the pool of qualified local trainers and coaches for agribusiness development in key countries;
  • (iv) sharing knowledge on digital technologies;
  • (v) promoting bankability of FOs
  • (vi) the facilitation of local networks.

These networks consist of national level key champions in agrifinance training and management development. Local AMEA networks have been set up in Ethiopia, Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya and Uganda and AMEA aims to establish at least another 6 in the next 3 years. These networks aim at establishing local market standards for training service delivery, criteria for participation in a value chain or as part of a creditworthiness assessment process on the basis of AMEA accredited training and certification tools.

Guidelines for Professional Farmer Organisations

AMEA has also lead the design of the International Workshop Agreement (IWA29) on Guidelines for Professional Farmer Organisations (ISO definition). The institutionalisation of IWA29 in African country policies and systems is one of the key targets. ICCO provides support in the various countries and leads the initiative in Kenya. In the recent CEA meeting in Kenya the ISO definition was shared with the partners. The Netherlands and Sierra Leone are the early adopters with the National Bureau of Standards officially recognising the IWA.

ICCO will continue to be a member and share the benefits with the offices around the globe as it contributes also the AMEA purpose.

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